When I was pregnant with my second child I really enjoyed reading James Duigan’s pregnancy guide. It’s filled with really interesting tips and advice and he’s kindly let us borrow this chapter from his book which focuses on exercise during pregnancy.
If your pregnancy is normal and you feel fine and up to it, moderate exercise at this stage can help you feel better, but don’t feel pressured. Just being active and walking every day is also fine.
There are several benefits of exercise during pregnancy. It can:
- ease or prevent back pain and other discomforts (as long as you do it correctly)
- boost your mood and energy levels
- help you sleep better
- help prevent excess weight gain – you shouldn’t be worrying about your weight in pregnancy, but nor do you need to be gaining an excessive amount
- increase stamina and muscle strength
- help prevent orthopaedic issues, such as back and knee pain
- reduce the risk of pre- and postnatal depression
- make giving birth easier
- improve your ability to deal with labour – the fitter you are, the better you’ll be able to cope (trust me, this will come in handy)
- help reduce constipation, which is a common pregnancy side effect, plus it reduces swelling and bloating
- possibly prevent or help gestational diabetes. Diabetes UK agrees that it helps levels of glucose tolerance.
However, as with everything else pregnancy-related, listen to your body at all times and check with your health practitioner or midwife before exercising. If you feel unwell, breathless or like you can’t carry on at any point, stop immediately. Don’t push yourself.
It’s best to continue exercising in a similar way to the way you did before you got pregnant. For example, if you ran regularly and went to the gym every week, continue with this, but listen to your body and slow things down if you need to.
If you rarely exercised before you got pregnant, don’t take it up now in the hope of keeping your weight down. Instead, start slowly with walking and swimming and find a local yoga or Pilates class that specialises in pregnancy.
Stop any risky or high-impact sports, such as horse riding, road cycling (a stationary exercise bike is fine), hockey, tennis, scuba diving, skiing, ice skating or hiking at high altitudes.
Stop exercising immediately if you experience any of the following (and if the symptoms don’t pass, call the maternity unit at your hospital or your doctor):
- Feeling faint or dizziness
- Increased shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Muscle weakness
- Calf pain or swelling
If any of the following happen, call the maternity unit at your hospital or your doctor immediately:
- Contractions, even if they’re mild and irregular
- Vaginal bleeding
- Decreased foetal movement in the later stages of pregnancy (you usually feel your baby’s first movements at around weeks 17 or 18, though sometimes earlier with second or third pregnancies)
- Fluid leaking from the vagina
Top tips for exercise during pregnancy
- Avoid brisk exercise in hot, humid weather.
- Wear comfortable clothing that will help you to remain cool.
- Wear a non-underwired bra that fits well and gives lots of support. It’s a good idea to have your bra size professionally measured twice or three times during pregnancy to ensure that you’re wearing a bra that protects your growing breasts.
- Drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated (see p. 61).
- Monitor your heart rate; aim to keep it no higher than 140bpm.
- Stop any time you feel as though you can’t go on. Remember, listen to your body.
Taken from Clean and Lean Pregnancy Guide by James Duigan. Published by Kyle Books, priced £12.99
Photography by Sebastian Roos and Charlie Richards.